There’s no getting away from the fact that Bab Al Shams is an amazing resort. If you visit at night, the hotel just appears out of the blackness of the desert, fully staffed and waiting to serve you, as though it had been conjured from a lamp.
This however, can also be a major downfall – it’s nearly an hour from the city, so you need to plan your visit with more precision than if you were just nipping out for a local curry. It’s worth noting that it takes an hour for a cab to arrive from Dubai, so taxis for the journey home should be ordered when you arrive. There are no magic carpets, and because none of the staff highlighted this (admittedly obvious) point when we arrived, we found ourselves twiddling our thumbs for an hour after our meal.
Masala is the resort’s Indian eatery, and it’s laid out as a series of rooms that are more like little living spaces. While this works in a busy restaurant to afford diners a degree of privacy, in a resort restaurant – which will never be as busy – the division of space only highlights how few diners are in attendance.
Luckily, after a busy week at Time Out Towers, a little space and peace and quiet didn’t actually go amiss. The service was excellent – the waiters were keen to explain which dishes complemented each other, and had an obvious knowledge of their cuisine so often missing in Dubai’s restaurants. But thanks to the lack of other diners, we were a little overexposed to their insistence in sampling the menu’s delights.
The restaurant offers traditional Indian dishes, but many are served in a more interesting manner than you’d usually find. The onion bhaji, for example, isn’t a solid lump of deep-fried food, but a nest of delicately crispy onions, all separated like battered string, which made the dish a lot lighter than other examples.
The choice of main courses felt a little small for such a high-end restaurant, with only three options for chicken and the same for lamb. This was reduced to two if we didn’t want our heads blown off with spice (we were warned away from the balti dish). The murgh makhni was rich and creamy – exactly like it’s supposed to be – while the lamb burranhani gosht had a much darker taste; it came with a paste-like sauce featuring a delicate blend of spices that really sizzled. Although the boneless lamb didn’t fall apart under the fork, it was plump and soft, while a warm stack of perfectly cooked rotis and firm, fluffy pilau rice helped to mop up the plates.
I’d also recommend the side order of a traditional dahl masala, a black, thick, gooey dish, although its flavour was a little lost against the strong-tasting curries. A refreshing little pot of mango kulfi rounded off the meal, with its semi-frozen, home-made texture providing the perfect pick-me- up to what was quite a heavy meal.
If Masala was in Dubai, no doubt its attention to detail and above-average food would attract more of a crowd. Yet its present location means it’s not quite different or stunning enough to be a destination restaurant.
The bill (for two)
1x Large water Dhs20
1x Onion bhaji Dhs41
1x Burrahani gosht Dhs75
1x Murgh makhni Dhs70
1x Dahl masala Dhs48
2x Tandoor roti Dhs26
1x Mango kulfi Dhs34
Total (including service) Dhs314